There are often several common energy auditing problems especially in energy audits that are channeled towards energy savings in facilities, both residential and commercial. A good energy audit backed up with a solid implementation often results into high degree or amount of energy savings while a bad energy audits no matter how solid the implementation is will always result into low or no energy savings. In many cases, bad energy audits results into more energy consumption, wasted efforts and investments and more so, an angry client.
A research to determine the frequency of energy audit problems carried out by Shapiro revealed that there are 10 common problems associated with energy audits. The study was carried out on 30 different audits- 15 home energy audits and commercial energy audits- and was done by 30 different energy audits companies. From the most common to the less common, below are the top 10 common energy audit problem experienced by facility managers and energy auditors.
- Missed opportunities: Missed opportunities is the topmost common energy audit problem experienced in both home energy audits and commercial energy audits by energy auditors and facility managers . For an energy audit problem to be classified as “missed opportunities”, the energy audit must have missed at least three of the following including high efficiency HVAC, high efficiency lightening, high efficiency domestic hot water, lighting controls, HVAC controls, fenestration improvements, roof or wall insulation, motors/drives, and lighting power density (single-family homes not applicable.
There are several reasons energy auditors and facility managers need to be comprehensive with their energy audit results. This includes economy scale, to allow facilities owners have full choice of savings, the society’s need achieve energy conservation amongst others. However, sadly, many improvement opportunities are still being missed due to reasons including insufficient time spent on energy assessment in the building, lack of training of energy auditors, low budgets, and sometimes homeowners’ directives preventing energy auditors not to evaluate specific improvements.
Nevertheless, there are great energy audits companies in Lagos and other places in the world who ensure they give owners a reasonable selection of options to choose from.
At Max-Migold, we give a comprehensive energy audit report and offer our client with opportunity to make an informed decisions on proposed energy saving projects. We take time to also know customers building systems, and we use well-developed tools for our energy saving models. In addition, we have a comprehensive up to date energy audit template that ensures we do not miss any opportunities.
- Weak Description of Scope of Measures:An energy audit should clearly relate the scope of the improvement conceived. The energy auditor should relate the details including the location, such as the room, quality of items needed e.g. quality of fixtures, energy rating of the equipment e.g., wattage of the new lamps, clearly to the client and the contractors who will be working on implementing the improvement. Without this, there are possibilities and chances of implementing an incomplete or incorrect scope and a full energy savings will not be achieved.
- Equipment and Project Life: Equipment and project life is very important to life-cycle cost analysis. A missing or incorrect information on project life can result in poor measure prioritization. Including projects or equipment life in all NPV, and IRR analysis, and calculating it for every measure is essential.
- No Life-Cycle Costing: According to Sharpiro , this is the failure of energy audits companies to provide client with a variety of life-cycle metrics such as net present value, savings-to-investment ratio, return on investment, etc. When compared to simple payback, life-cycle costing is a more holistic metric for energy improvements. Lifecycle costing also helps clients and commercial energy auditors to make good decisions on what projects to pursue. It is advisable to calculate the IRR (Internal Rate of Return and the NPV (Net Present Value) for all measures and the report as well. All figures gotten captured will permit an easy decision making by the client.
- Poor Energy Savings Measure Selection: The fifth common energy auditing problem is poor energy savings measure. Poor energy measure selection is usually caused by missing or inaccurate information. Common mistakes that may arise from this is to suggest an action with a longer payback than the expected life of the project, or when an energy auditor make biased assumptions. Other mistakes include an energy auditor not using life cycle costing or underestimating equipment or installation costs.
- Low Installation Cost:It is important that installation costs well reflect the energy savings calculation. If no installation figure is given for implementation cost, there is a good chance that measures would be incorrectly prioritized, and more expensive project can be chosen over a cost-effective project. Also, energy audit reports usually give the budget for implementing the selected measures. Hence, if the installation cost is low or missing, the project would be at risk of going over budget. For this reason, energy audits companies may use a detailed costing database that helps their lighting team identify retrofit opportunities, model scenarios for different lamp and ballast options, and calculate payback for various opportunities.
- Poor or Missing Building Description: Another common energy auditing challenge is missing or poor building description under auditing. All energy audits should include a well-detailed description of all parts of a building. Building description for an industrial or commercial energy audit is different from a home energy audits. The best opportunities for energy savings for home energy audits are infiltration, windows and wall/roof components while for commercial energy audits includes HVAC and lighting systems.
Giving a detailed building description in energy audits permits review of the energy audit by the client, senior energy auditors and regulatory or funding agencies. It also permits insightful development of improvements. Poor or missing building description is an indicator of an energy auditor weaknesses. It also shows that enough time wasn’t spent in the building. A poor building description is often associated with a likelihood of missed opportunities.
Max-Migold Limited partners with B.E.S.T, British Energy Saving Technology to give you a detailed description of all major energy consuming systems and equipment in your building.
- Inadequate Billing Analysis: An energy audit has an inadequate billing analysis as one of the common energy audit problem if it misses three out of the following four:
i. Monthly summaries of fuel bills for at least one year
ii. A true-up of bills to the energy audit model
iii. Projected savings being a reasonable fraction of total annual use
iv. Some form of benchmarking.
Studying at least one year of monthly energy data will give the clients a better understanding of the consumption patterns and energy costs of their buildings. Energy audit companies can run regression analysis, provided better and further particulars are available on the billing pattern. This will help determine the relationships between variables to predict future energy use. In addition, it will allow energy auditors to correctly understand how the variables that affect energy use, such as weather or occupancy patterns over a particular period, affect energy consumption. This will provide the client with a baseline standard against which to measure energy consumption in the following years.
- Overestimation of Energy Savings:Energy savings is said to be overestimated when either energy use by an existing equipment is overestimated or energy use by a proposed equipment is underestimated, or a combination of the two. Studies showed that an energy auditor can sometimes bias assumptions to head an improvement towards “recommended”. For example, residential lights can be presumed to operate more than 8 hours in a day and heating controls presumed to be 10°F (6°C) reduction in indoor temperature. Meanwhile, research revealed that residential lights use is 3 hours per day on the average. A high energy savings estimate can lead to unreasonable expectations and poor prioritization of measures.
We recommend that energy auditors approach energy savings estimation conservatively as this reflects the complex nature of building systems and the effect that the people occupying these spaces and managing these systems can have on the results.
- Inadequate Review: The least common energy audit problem is inadequate review. Inadequate reviews are other mistakes other than calculation errors. Such mistakes may include duplicate parts of an energy audit report.
The problem of inadequate review can be avoided using a comprehensive quality assurance and review process. Energy audit reports should be written with new version of energy audit template to avoid duplication or misnomer errors. Also, after drafting energy report, it should be reviewed and proofread. A senior energy audit staff should also be involved actively in all stages including planning, field investigation, and review.
Solutions to tackle Common Energy Audits Problems
- Implementing an energy audit standard for all energy audit process to be strictly followed by auditors
- Using an energy audit template to ensure that no section of the building or facility is missed or any part of the improvement opportunities e.g HVAC, and lighting controls.
- All energy editors used on site must be trained and accredited energy auditors for home and commercial buildings
- High level of quality control should be applied. An extra pair of eyes ensures the accuracy of the energy audit process.
- Energy savings amount provided to a facility should be verified continually.
- Implementing an energy audit software throughout the energy audit and retrofit process to ensure increased efficiency and accuracy.
Energy audit standards need to be refined, harmonized, disseminated, and enforced quickly. Also, training and accreditation of home energy auditors and commercial energy auditors also need to be improved, as does quality control.
Would you like a team of energy auditors carry out an energy consultation or energy assessment for your home or business facilities? You can choose to reach out to professional energy audits companies near you today.
- Ian Shapiro, P.E.“10 common problems in energy audits” ASHRAE Journal 2011.